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If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a malware attack, you’ll know that it can be frustrating and time consuming to remove the infection and repair your system. Manual removal requires downloading a removal tool and booting into Safe Mode, and in extreme situations can require you to completely reinstall (or restore from a backup) your operating system.
While we would advise strongly in favor of a security suite that has the ability to scan for malware, not all suites are created equal. It’s easy to lapse and forget to run something like MalwareBytes Anti-malware, but even with security and anti-malware software installed, it is still very important that you are able to spot malware activity on your PC, and employ the right tactics to remove it.
How to Spot Malware
When malware is infecting your computer, you won’t know anything about it… at first, anyway.
Once the pop-up windows start appearing, your browser gets some surprising new features and performance on your computer grinds to a halt, however, it will become apparent that something else is going on. This video summarizes well:
You should also look out for erratic mouse activity, which can betray unauthorized remote control (did you speak to a “Windows Support” scammer?) of your machine, as well as a storage drive that is rapidly running out of space.
Be Aware of and Spot Keyloggers
Keyloggers come in two flavors, hardware and software. Hardware keyloggers can be devices that sit between the keyboard cable and your computer, or even small USB devices that simply detect and record what you’re typing (typically used on laptops).
Here’s an example of a hardware keylogger being installed:
It’s unlikely that an online criminal or scammer would use a hardware keylogger; rather, this is more the tactic of security/law enforcement services, or an employer if you’re using a work computer. Hardware keyloggers are comparatively easy to spot and can often be manually removed.
Software keyloggers, meanwhile, hide on your drive and record your keystrokes, enabling remote cyber criminals (and, let’s face it, security services) to detect what you’re typing. If you suspect that a keylogger is being used against you, you’ll need to remove it with a professional tool or do so manually, but before you do check that your suspicions are correct…
If this is an attack vector that concerns you, then you should take steps to block keylogging software.
Make Sure You Use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
If you’re not already using it, there is one app that you should install to make sure that any malware on your computer is detected, and removed. That software is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which we mentioned above.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, this single utility will sort out Trojans, keyloggers, adware, spyware, and even worms. And it does all of this with minimal input from you, the user, as demonstrated in this tutorial video.
Two versions are available (premium and free), but the free release is all you need to detect and remove malware on your PC. Head to www.malwarebytes.org/mwb-download/ to grab your copy. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is also available for Mac OS X and Android.
Go Hardcore: Destroy Really Nasty Malware
Not all malware is created equal. While some is relatively easy to dispose of (so simple that your antivirus software can handle it) there is some really insidious infections out there that can wreak havoc on your PC.
While it’s easy to suggest that you stay away from websites where such malware can be picked up, not all of it travels from the web. Some malware can spread via email or flash storage, for instance, and we’ve recently seen that some ad networks (such as Yahoo!) are less secure than they would have you believe.
For the really nasty malware, check out this video which explains how to kill virtually any infection thanks to a collection of excellent tools, among them SUPERAntiSpyware (our SAS review), Kaspersky TDSS Killer, REVO Uninstaller and CCleaner. For something you can read, meanwhile, our malware removal guide should prove very useful.
Your Antivirus Suite is Not Enough
All of this is heading, of course, to the assertion of a fact that many computer users continue to be unaware of: the vast majority of antivirus software is quite incapable of handling non-virus malware.
Malware is usually designed to infect and subvert your computer, sending spam or stealing passwords. As you may have gathered, Trojans, keyloggers, worms, and rootkits are all types of malware.
Viruses, meanwhile, can be classed as a subset of malware, and are malicious programs that spread by infecting files – which is why they are called viruses.
Often the terms are interchangeable, which is why there is often confusion about this, although we’ve put together a guide to help you identify types of malware. What you really need to know is that you need more than a standard antivirus tool to deal with malware, just as you need to be able to recognize when your system is being subverted by online criminals.
Been hit by malware but missed the signs? Suspect something is up with your PC now? Tell us in the comments.